Greyhounds are one of the best breeds of dogs in terms of being able to live with children. They are gentle, low key and affectionate. Most greyhounds do not have a lot of experience with children but because of their even-tempered personalities, they can usually live peaceably with children in the right circumstances.
Greyhounds and children stand a better chance of getting along well if there is an understanding about greyhound behavior and if children are taught how to handle and respect a greyhound. No dog, including a greyhound, likes having their tails pulled, ears yanked, being stared at, hung on, having their eyes poked, etc. All dogs have their limits and sooner or later all dogs will become fed up and defend themselves in the only way they know how – growling and biting.
We at Fast Friends Greyhound Rescue, Inc. have placed many greyhounds in to homes successfully with children. However, we make sure that each family gets lots of training about greyhound behavior and that each family is willing to do what is necessary to prevent any problems. If you are considering adopting a greyhound and you have children, please take the time to read about the breed and then make sure that you are willing to make the commitment to teach your children about how to treat the dog. Parents who conclude that their children may be too young to be taught (or remember) how to treat an animal should wait until they are older to bring home a greyhound.
Here are some important points about greyhounds and children. The secret to a successful adoption is to become educated, set rules for everyone and then be diligent and consistent in enforcing them. The work you put into getting your dog transitioned into your home the first few weeks will result in a wonderful and happy family pet.
The most important rule to remember is NEVER LEAVE A CHILD AND DOG ALONE TOGETHER – EVER! If something happens and you are not there to see it, you will not be able to solve a problem. Anything is possible at any time with any dog.
YOUR GREYHOUND AND YOUR CHILDREN
Remember that you and your kids are part of the pack as is every other living creature in your home. Smaller children will almost never out rank a dog in the pack order according to your greyhound. Some greyhounds see a child as another animal to dominate. You must be the observer and trainer to make sure everyone knows their place in the pack (and that your greyhound knows its place).
BRINGING YOUR GREYHOUND HOME
When you first bring your greyhound home, make sure the environment is quiet and peaceful the first week or two. During the initial greeting, do not allow your children to surround the dog and follow it, try to give it toys, bother it while it’s lying down, give it food, etc. Parents should lead the introduction between greyhound and children and make sure that the meeting is calm. Allow your children to pet the dog, keeping hands away from eyes, ears and other sensitive areas. Allow small scratches behind the ears and soft pats.
We understand that everyone is very excited at bringing home a new dog. But your dog will be a bit nervous in its new surroundings for awhile. Give your greyhound time to explore and relax and start getting used to a routine. There will be plenty of time later to play and spend time with your dog. Do not immediately invite everyone you know to your home to meet your new dog. Leave that for later once your dog has gotten used to being at your home.
LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE
When your greyhound is sleeping DO NOT allow your children near the dog. Some greyhounds are not used to being awakened by touch and can be startled. Although we profile each dog and test it for sleep aggression during fostering, there is no guarantee that any greyhound awakened suddenly won’t growl or bite out of fear. Some greyhounds, unfairly, have been returned to groups for growling and biting and it’s because they were awakened suddenly. Think of how you would feel if you were rudely awakened out of a sound sleep! Some greyhounds even sleep with their eyes open. Therefore, the best way to awaken a greyhound is to call its name first and make sure it’s awake.
CRATE AND PRIVACY
Since we advocate for the use of a crate for your greyhound in the beginning (because that is what greyhounds are used to), some ground rules should be followed consistently. Never allow your children to crawl inside the greyhound’s crate – whether they are in it or not. This also includes not allowing your children to reach inside the crate to pet or touch the dog. The crate should be the dog’s quiet safe zone where it can go to relax and get some peace. Children should not beat on the crate, shove things into the crate or tease the dog at any time. All dogs, including your greyhound, are entitled to privacy when they need it. If your children have guests, the greyhound should be crated to prevent problems. Some children visiting your home may not have the same level of understanding about dogs. Crating will give your greyhound an opportunity to get used to children in a safe and secure environment.
FEEDING TIME – FOOD AND TREATS
When it comes to greyhounds, children and food, you can never be too careful. Do not allow your new greyhound to be fed by your children from the table (it’s not a good idea to feed any greyhound from the table no matter who is doing it!). A dog will soon learn that it can take anything it wants from a child at any time including food that is not meant to be eaten. Also, your greyhound may associate your meal time with snack time for him/her. Small children are easier for a greyhound to reach around to get food from a plate and then you will have problems to deal with. If your dog steals food from your child, NEVER allow the child to take the food from the dog
You may want to give your children the opportunity to feed your greyhound. However, you must monitor at all times. Only allow your child to set the bowl down for the dog. Some dogs that are anxious to eat may knock down a small child. In this case, until a greyhound gets used to knowing that food will always be available, it may be a better idea in the beginning to feed the dog in its crate to avoid any accidents. In addition, while the dog is eating, a child should not be close by or be allowed to touch the dog or touch the food and bowl.
Allowing a child to give a greyhound a treat is a good idea. This can be a special event that helps bring the greyhound and child closer together. Remember, greyhounds can get excited about treats and they can forget how big they are. Make this time special and save it for when the house is settled and quiet and you can monitor the process.
GREYHOUNDS, CHILDREN, SOFAS AND BEDS
In the beginning, you should keep your dog from sleeping on sofas and beds. This physically elevates the dog into a position of dominance. Some dogs will seem fine in the beginning but then begin to growl or snap if a child walks near it and bothers it. This behavior should not be allowed. Do not allow your greyhound to sleep with your child. This may again result in an unexpected bite if the child moves and rolls on to the dog. It’s better to take everything slowly and make sure that your greyhound understands its position in the pack before giving it too much power.
GREYHOUNDS, CHILDREN, YARDS AND OPEN DOORS
Never forget that your greyhound can get up to amazing speeds in a very short time! A greyhound can get up to 40 miles per hour in only a few strides. A greyhound playing and running in a yard along with a running child can spell disaster. Always be present when your greyhound and children are playing outside. Be mindful of how greyhounds play with toys and make sure your children understand not to play tug of war with or try to yank toys out of a greyhound’s mouth. This type of play can escalate to negative behaviors since greyhounds are prey driven. Back yard play time can be lots of fun for children and dog as long as it is monitored.
Children can sometimes leave gates open outside and a greyhound can escape. Children cannot always remember (or be expected) to keep gates closed, especially if other children from the neighborhood come by and play in your yard. The best idea is to lock all gates and allow children to come in through the door to the house. Another suggestion would be to keep the greyhound indoors during outside play sessions.
The same goes for open doors. If you do not have a fenced in yard (or even if you do and your front door does not open into a fenced area) your dog can easily slip out of an open door. This also goes for car doors. Always make sure you have the ability to stop your greyhound from escaping. Teach children to always be careful; however, parents have to take the lead on keeping a greyhound from getting away.
GREYHOUNDS, CHILDREN AND TOYS
Greyhounds love toys. Children love toys. Your greyhound will probably not know the difference between dog toys and children’s toys, especially the soft squeaky kind. In addition, greyhounds will most likely love the children’s toys because they smell like the children. Sometimes children’s toys may be made of materials that are not healthy for a dog if chewed and swallowed. These items include plastic toys, clay, shoes, crayons, books, stuffed animals with plastic pieces used for eyes and nose, etc.
If your children have toys that mean something special, they should be put up from a greyhound’s reach. Never allow your child to wrestle a toy away from a greyhound. Entice the dog with a treat or something higher value and teach the command “drop it”.
ESTABLISHING TRUST BETWEEN GREYHOUNDS AND CHILDREN
Build up trust by allowing your child daily to pet, scratch, brush and have them affirm the dog as they do these activities. Adding to this regiment over time, allow them to help by opening and closing the crate door, placing the dog’s food bowl down for it, giving the dog treats and helping to attach the leash for a walk (and later by walking the dog with the parents nearby). All of these activities will help build a healthy relationship between your children and your greyhound.
With proper training and monitoring, your children will become greyhound savvy and you will be surprised at how much your greyhound will love your children!
We recommend these books for more information: